The Orange Couch, Episode 4 of Breaking Bad: “51”
This week’s episode had a lot of thematic heaviness, especially for Breaking Bad. The question is whether or not someone can really get a fresh start, or are we all doomed to have the past keep repeating itself? The answer is complicated, and you can get our read on it by watching the video.
A lot of ink has been spilled about how the character of Jesse, who was supposed to be a minor character dropped early in the series, became such a fascinating counterbalance to Walt that the writing staff of Breaking Bad had to keep him on. But as last night’s episode showed, Skyler has had an equally fascinating evolution. At the beginning of the series, she was a mildly depressed housewife who was so used to living a minor lie—that it was a good idea to marry the older man who knocked her up and try to make a functional marriage out of that—that when the pressure mounted for her to continue looking the other way from unpleasant realities, she played along. For a time. But now Skyler just can’t do it anymore. She’s clearly regretting how hard she worked to keep Walt alive when he was refusing to get treatments, and maybe wondering how stupid she was to marry him in the first place.
Still, it’s worth thinking about how much Skyler’s life has materially changed. Overall, things have gotten much worse, of course, and I don’t think anyone should deny that. But when we first met Skyler, she was financially dependent, neurotic and bored. You have to wonder if she got pregnant even though she has a teenager just because she needs something to justify her continued existence as a housewife. They had no savings to speak of, so when Walt got diagnosed with severe lung cancer, she was in real danger of being plunged into poverty. Her insistence that he live no matter what he thought of it was an act of love, sure, but in another sense it was an act of self-preservation.
Now Skyler owns a car wash and we’ve been led to believe that while it’s not making the family rich by any stretch, it’s a pretty good source of income. She’s still depressed, but she’s not deluded any longer. Skyler feels like Walt trapped her in this hellish existence, which he pretty much did, but he also had her trapped in her pre-meth-dealing existence, as well. If Walt had died then, she would have been in another trap. If he dies now, Skyler would be much better off. She could have her car wash and make a decent living without having to worry about his criminal activity bringing the house down around her ears. No wonder she feels differently now than she did then. Walt is her Gus Fring: Someone she used to depend on, but now someone who she feels has to die so she can live.